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Four Quick Steps: Are You Ready For Opinion Writing?

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My team and I recently sat down to talk about teaching opinion writing in our first-grade classrooms.  Guiding opinion writing with our students is fun.  Young kids have opinions … lots of opinions!  We aren’t anticipating the struggle of finding a topic like Lisa described in her post, The Heart Work of Persuasive Writing, seven-year-olds have plenty of opinions!

What we worried about was how we would teach the writers how to disagree respectfully and support their opinions with evidence and would they be able to use evidence effectively.  So, we asked ourselves what exactly it is we want our writers to be able to do, and what’s already out there that is similar to what we are asking them to do.

Marie immediately brought up the judges of a dog show as a way to show the kids what it is they would be doing as they write about their opinions.  She pulled up a video to preview, and we noticed the judges doing the following and connected these observations to the standards:

  • The judge took the time to look closely at the dogs. (introduce topic)
  • Judge was thinking about his opinion as to why each dog was or wasn’t the best in show (comparing)
  • Then writing his opinion and evidence to make his decision. (supply a reason)
  • Awarding of prizes. (Bring sense of closure, restating the opinion)

It seemed the video of the dog show not only introduced and modeled the talk of opinion writing, but it would also be highly motivating for the writers.  We would hook their interest for sure!

With our hook at the ready, we began to gather resources.  We searched our blog, Two Writing Teachers, Lucy Calkin’s writing units of study, and About the Authors, by Katie Wood Ray for ideas, tips, examples, and text suggestions.  (Click here for the list of books we chose.)

To help guide our teaching we needed to know what our kids can do and where they would need our support.  For this, we needed a pre-assessment.  We decided to ask the students to state their opinion on which seating option in the classroom was best and why.  We chose this topic because it’s a typical conversation in our classrooms and the students would have the experience necessary to show us what they know about stating an opinion and supporting it with evidence.

I am excited to get started and to see what topics the kids pick as we move through the unit.  I know I am going to be learning so much about the students as kids and as writers!

8 thoughts on “Four Quick Steps: Are You Ready For Opinion Writing? Leave a comment

  1. Barb,
    We wanted to have an authentic problem to our class to model the expectations of opinion writing. We thought having a common dilemma to refer to, where kids already have informed opinions would clearly demonstrate what evidence is and why it’s important.


  2. Deb,
    How many on-demands are you using with a unit? Some of our grade levels have gone with the pre and the post a bit more structured like you describe here and then a more open one near the end of each bend as an example of progress. Those smaller ones have seemed to be more reflective of the instruction.

    Does that make sense? Your thoughts?


    • Fran,
      We will use a more structured pre-assessment and from there all writing topics will be open to the kids choice. We will use writing samples over the course of the unit as well as information gained through conferring and kid watching as our final data. Writers are a work over time, each piece counts toward learning.
      Does this answer your question?


    • Barb,
      We chose to give the students a common topic because it’s a common dilemma in our classroom and provides an authentic writing experience and a real-life problem to solve. In addition, the kids have an experience they can use as their evidence. This familiarity clearly demonstrates what it means to have an independent opinion and why evidence is necessary to support opinions.


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